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Till fate and your own happy choice reveale,
Whom you so farre shall blesse, to make your seale. Fairest Valentine, the unfeigned wishe of your
TO [JOHN WILMOT,] EARL OF ROCHESTER.
Tuesday. [July, 1673.] MY LORD,
I HAVE accused my selfe this month together for not writing to you. I have called my
selfe by the names I deserved, of unmannerly and ungratefull: I have been uneasy and taken up the resolutions of a man who is betwixt Sin and Repentance, convinc'd of what he ought to do, and yet unable to do better. At the last I deferred it so long, that I almost grew hardened in the neglect; and thought I had suffered so much in your good opinion, that it was in vain to hope I
3 There is no date, except the day of the week, to this letter, of which a copy is preserved in the Museum ; Mss. Harl. 7003. The Dedication referred to must have been that prefixed to Dryden's MARRIAGE A-LA-MODE, which was entered in the Stationers' Books, March 18, 1672-3, and probably published in the following month. Rochester appears to have sent the poet a letter of thanks for his Dedication, to which this reply was made some time afterwards.--I have therefore affixed July, 1673, as a conjectural date to it. The second Dutch war was then carrying on with great spirit.
could redeem it. So dangerous a thing it is to be inclin'd to sloath, that I must confess once for all, I was ready to quit all manner of obligations, and to receive, as if it were my due, the most handsome compliment, couch'd in the best language I have read, and this too from my Lord of Rochester, without shewing myself sensible of the favour. If your Lordship could condescend so far to say all those things to me, which I ought to have say'd to you, it might reasonably be concluded, that you
had enchanted me to believe those praises, and that I owned them in my silence. 'Twas this consideration that moved me at last to put off my idleness. And now the shame of seeing my selfe overpay'd so much for an ill Dedication, has made me almost repent of my address. I find it is not for me to contend any way with your Lordship, who can write better on the meanest subject, then I can on the best. I have only engaged my selfe in a new debt, when I had hoped to cancell a part of the old one ; and should either have chosen some other patron, whom it was in my power to have obliged by speaking better of him then he deservd, or have made your Lordship only a hearty Dedication of the respect and honour I had for you, without giving you the occasion to conquer me, as you
have done, at my own weapon. My only relief is, that what I have written is publique, and I am so much my own friend as to conceal your Lordship’s letter; for that which would have given vanity to any other poet, has only given me confusion.
You see, my Lord, how far you have push'd me: I dare not own the honour you have done me, for fear of shewing it to my own disadvantage. You are that rerum natura of your own Lucretius ;
Ipsa suis pollens opibus, nihil indiga nostri. 4 You are above any incense I can give you, and have all the happiness of an idle life, join’d with the good-nature of an active. Your friends in town are ready to envy the leisure you have given your selfe in the country ; though they know you are only their steward, and that you treasure up but so much health as you intend to spend on them in winter. In the mean time you have withdrawn your selfe from attendance, the curse of courts ; you may think on what you please, and that as little as you please ; for, in my opinion, thinking it selfe is a kind of pain to a witty man : he finds so much more in it to disquiet than to please him. But I hope your Lordship will not omitt the occasion of laughing at the of B[uckingham], who is so uneasy to him selfe by pursuing the honour of Lieutenant-General, which flyes him, that he can enjoy nothing he possesses ; though at the same time he is so unfit to command an army, that he is the only man in the three nations, who does not know it: yet he still picques himself, like his father, to find another Isle of Rhe in Zealand ; thinking this disappointment an injury to him, which is indeed a favour, and will not be satisfied but with his own ruin and with our's. 'Tis a strange quality in a man, to love idleness so well as to destroy his estate by it; and yet at the same time to pursue so violently the most toilsome and most unpleasant part of business. These observations would soon run into lampoon, if I had not forsworn that dangerous part of wit; not so much out of good-nature, but lest from the inborn vanity of poets I should shew it to others, and betray my selfe to a worse mischief than what I do to my enemy. This has been lately the case of Etherege ; who translating a satyr of Boileau's, and changing the French names for English, read it so often, that it came to their ears who were concern'd; and forced him to leave off the design, e're it were half finish'd. Two of the verses I remember:
4 Lucret. lib. i. Lord Rochester has translated the passage in which this line is found.
I call a spade, a spade; Eaton, s a bully;
s The person meant was, I believe, Sir John Eaton, of whom I know no more than that he was a writer of songs in the time of Charles II. One of them is preserved in Dryden's MiscellANIES ; and it is followed by another written by Lord Rochester, “ In imitation of Sir John Eaton's songs." He is perhaps the person mentioned by Antony Hammond in some verses addressed to Walter Moyle in 1693 :
Eyton, whom vice becomes, of vigour full, “ Foe to the godly, covetous, and dull." * Perhaps Tregonwell Frampton, Keeper of the Royal Stud at Newmarket ; who was born in 1641, and died in 1727. Concerning Brother John I can form no conjecture.
But one of his friends imagin'd those names not enough for the dignity of a satyr, and chang'd them thus :
I call a spade, a spade; Dunbar," a bully;
7 Probably the grandson of Sir George Hume, created Earl of Dunbar by James the first, in 1605. The title became extinct about the year 1689, for want of issue male ; and was attempted to be revived in this century by the old Pretender, in the person of James Murray, elder brother of William, the first Earl of Mansfield,
In two MS. Iampoons dated 1687, formerly among the MSS. at Bulstrode, one entitled “ The Prophecy," the other " A Catalogue of our most eminent Ninnies,” the Duchess of Monmouth is accused of being gallant with Lord Feversham, and also with Stamford, Cornwallis, and brawny Dunbar. In May 1688, she married Lord Corn. wallis. The Catalogue of Ninnies was printed by Curll in 1714, and ascribed to Charles, Earl of Dorset.-The person in question is there called strong Dunbar.
8 Henry Brouncker, younger brother of William, Viscount Brouncker, first President of the Royal Society, was of the bedchamber to the Duke of York, notorious for having carried false orders to the master of his Royal Highness's ship, to slacken sail, after the engagement with the Dutch, in 1665; " which the Duke did not hear of till some years after, when Brouncker's ill course of life and his abominable actions had rendered him so odious, that it was taken notice of in parliament; upon which he was expelled the House of Commons, whereof he was a member, as an infamous person; though his friend Coventry
adhered to him, and used many indirect arts to have protected him, and afterwards procured him to have more countenance from the King, than most men thought he deserved; being a person throughout his whole life